Shot Guns


The shotgun is a two-handed weapon with a length between that of carbine and rifle. The shotgun fires a shell packed with pellets, shot or a single ball (normally made of lead). Those pellets spread out as they head towards the target, making it easier to hit a given target, but also reducing the damage significantly as the range increases. The shotgun is the weapon of bird hunters and a cherished possession of gentry. While most plain, no-name shotguns are relatively inexpensive (as shown in the equipment list), the top of the line Greener’s can be very expensive!.

Though a shotgun has limited range, it can inflict a great deal of damage at close ranges. The pellets spread 1′ cumulative for each range increment. Because of the spreading shot, the standard shotgun has a +1 bonus to hit on attack rolls. The shot from a standard shotgun is not wide enough to hit more than one target at a time at their range increments or less.

Each time the shot travels the equivalent of its bore and chokes Range Adjustment, the damage it does to a target is halved. Example: A 12 gauge, Full Choke does 4d8 damage out to 120 feet. It does 2d8 out to 240 feet and 1d8 out to 360 feet, 1d4 out to 480 feet and 1d2 out to 600 feet. At extreme ranges the shot is spread so far apart that very few pellets will hit the target (if it is man sized.) Even against large or huge targets, the shot will be widely dispersed and will have lost much of it’s penetration.

Because of the length of the shotgun, it is difficult to conceal the firearm on one’s body. In general the shotgun is divided into three categories: the breech loading shotgun, the sawed-off double-barrel shotgun, and the pump shotgun.

The single barrel or double barrel, breech-loadingshotgun

The double-barrel shotgun has two triggers, one behind the other. It is not possible to exactly fire both barrels at the same instant unless the triggers are wired together, so each shot needs a separate attack roll.

More expensive double barrel shotguns are often made with two different chokes (see the section on chokes below) to give the shooter range options.

When opening the breech, or ‘breaking’ the shotgun, inexpensive breech loading shotguns have an ‘Extractor’ that pushes the shell, loaded or empty, about a third of the way out at which point the shooter must pull the cartridge out by hand in order to reload or unload the gun.

Expensive shotguns, particularly Greeners but also some of the better copies, have an ‘Ejector’ that actually throws the cartridge clear of the gun when it is broken open,

The pump and lever (action) shotgun were developed in the 1880s and were commonly available in the 1890s. It is a single barrel, magazine loaded weapon with a slide pump or lever. It is not available as a sawed-off version since the magazine is a tube mounted under the barrel. Though the butt stock can be removed to improve concealability. These shotguns can be purchased in any of the available chokes (see below.)

The sawed-off shotgun is not actually something that is sold in gun shops, but it is easy to obtain. The character simply buys a regular single or double-barrel shotgun and using a hacksaw, cuts off the last few inches of the barrels. This action removes the choke at the end of the barrel and is considered a ‘Straight Bore’ but the Range Increment is reduced by 10′ due to the shortened barrel. This same barrel length makes the weapon ‘handier’ making it easier to hit a specific target, +2 to hit. This also means the amount of damage declines faster with increasing range to the target. Each time the shot travels the equivalent of its bore and chokes Range Adjustment, the damage it does to a target is halved. NOTE: It is not possible to exactly fire both barrels at the same instant unless the triggers are wired together, so each shot needs a separate attack roll.

Scattergun The scattergun is a variant of the basic sawed off shot gun. It is ALWAYS illegal! By taking a single or double barrel (not a lever or pump action) shotgun, cutting the barrel down to less than 12 inches and cutting off the stock behind the hand grip, the shooter has a one-handed, medium-sized firearm that acts as a very close combat, room-clearing weapon.
The Range Increment of a Scattergun is 10′. The pellets disperse in a cone-shaped spray that is 6′ wide at 10-foot range, 12′ wide at 20-foot range, 18′ wide at 30- foot range, and so forth (out to 62′ wide at 100- foot range). However, the rapidly dispersing pellets deliver rapidly declining damage at increasing range. In the first 10′ range increment, the damage is maximum for the gauge. In the second range increment, the damage drops by 50% In the third range increment, the damage drops ANOTHER 50% . The weapon is not very effective beyond 30′.

Example: A double barreled, 12 gauge scatter gun is fired. (The triggers are wired together for maximum effect) Damage at 10′ is 4d8x2. At 20′ it does 2d8x2. At 30′ it does 2d4x2. At 40′ it does 1d2x2. At 50′ it does 2hp. At 60′ 1hp.

Since this is not an aimed weapon, but an area-of-effect weapon, no attack roll is made. The shooter just points the weapon and pulls the trigger. The targets in the area-of-effect roll a Reflex saving throw — taking only half damage if successful. (The DM may decide that if the shooter is attempting to place a target deliberately near an edge of the spray–probably to include more targets–if that particular target makes her Reflex save, she takes no damage.) Damage for all targets should be rolled separately as the results would be quasi-random. One lucky character at 35 feet might escape any damage at all, while an unlucky innocent bystander at 95 feet gets a pellet through the eye–killing him instantly. In theory a shot gun pellet or shot can travel 200 yards, however anyone actually struck by a pellet from a scattergun much beyond 100 feet is simply having a bad day. Though collateral injuries, especially in a crowded area like a street, are very possible.

NOTE: It is not possible to exactly fire both barrels at the same instant unless the triggers are wired together, so each shot needs a separate attack roll.

The scattergun is more difficult to hide than a pistol but easier to hide than any of the long arms. Discovery of a scattergun by police is usually taken as evidence of criminal intent of the bearer as the only purpose of such weapons is to kill people at very short distances. Confiscation of the scattergun almost always occurs.

Shotgun Chokes and Ranges

For the uninitiated, a ‘Choke’ on a shotgun is a slight tapering or reduction of the last few inches of the barrel just at the muzzle of the gun. This reduction modifies the clump of bird shot (and buck shot) as it leaves the barrel, condensing it to some degree, allowing for the cloud of pellets to stay more tightly grouped over a longer range before their interaction in the cloud begins forcing them apart into a wider and wider spread.

The EFFECTIVE range of a shotgun (versus a human target) is when the pattern is between 30 and 40 inches in diameter. This puts the most pellets and shot into the target area. As it continues on the pattern spreads and the number of pellets that will hit a man sized target steadily drops until it is possible that nothing hits, even though the pellets and shot are still traveling. The actual MAXIMUM range is about 200 yards before the pellets/shot drops out of the air.

An ‘unchoked’ shotgun muzzle is referred to as ‘True Bore’ or ‘Straight Bore’ or ‘Cylinder.’ And the barrel diameter is the same from end to end. In the case of a 12 gauge, that’s .729-inch. Shot patterns from a Cylinder gun start to spread out very quickly and though this can be useful at short ranges it makes it difficult to hit targets with enough pellets or shot, at range, to do much damage. Indeed, after a certain point it is likely to miss the target completely! What this means is that a Cylinder Bore will put only about 40 percent of its pattern in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards.

As the choke is increased (the opening of the muzzle gets slightly SMALLER) the shot pattern stays tighter, longer

For comparison, a Full Choke—what’s typically measured at about 0.40-inch smaller then the gun’s ‘True Bore’—is supposed to throw 75 percent of its pattern within a 30-inch circle at 40 yards.

Choke is nominally labeled and identified by the following names and dimensions in the UK

  • Cylinder which is the true bore of the barrel (no constriction)
  • 1/4 choke or Improved Cylinder 0.010″ reduction
  • 1/2 choke 0.020″ reduction
  • 3/4 choke 0.30″ reduction
  • Full Choke 0.40″ reduction

In general, if you are planning on shooting Bird Shot (pellets) at the following ranges:

  • For 40 yards or more use Full Choke
  • 35 yards use 3/4 choke
  • 30 yards use 1/2 choke
  • 25yards use 1/4 choke

As a ‘rule of thumb’ the shot pattern will continue to expand (past the range of the choke type) at a rate of 1-inch per 1-yard distance out to a maximum of about 200 yards at which point all the pellets will lose inertia and drop to the ground.

This selection will give you an adequately dense pattern at the range selected to cope with any target or quarry, all you have to do is position the muzzle correctly.

(NOTE: ‘Skeet choke’ is a modern innovation that did not develop until after skeet shooting became popular in the 1920’s)

Although gun manufacturers have played around with various ‘chokes’ on shotguns for decades, the results were erratic, non standard and largely unsatisfactory until the early 1880’s and the gunsmith W.W. Greener developed and perfected (and patented) a standardized and reliable choke system. The full range of chokes available on modern shotguns is not yet available (and removable chokes do not exist at all!) But Greener’s shotguns are considered the best on the market at this time. And a fine quality Greener can be expensive! Though more utilitarian models can be had for more reasonable amounts, even a bare bones Greener is more expensive (and reliable) then a copy, even those made by otherwise reputable companies. Also of note, W. W. Greener designed (patented) and perfected the ‘Ejector’ for breech loading shot guns (1881) which actually caused the empty or loaded) shells to be ejected from the chamber when the shotgun is ‘broken’ open, speeding reloading. Prior to this, and still in many other shotguns, breaking the shotgun causes an ‘extractor’ to push the shells (empty or full) part way out where they must be removed by hand.

Shotgun Gauges and Ranges by Choke: TRUE BORE

GaugeDamageRange IncrementNotes
.4103d620ftLight Recoil
203d840ftModerate Recoil
163d8+340ftModerate Recoil
124d840ftHeavy Recoil
104d8+345ftLarge Recoil
85d8+345ftVery Large Recoil

Shotgun Gauges and Ranges by Choke type: 1/4 CHOKE

GaugeDamageRange IncrementNotes
.4103d625ftLight Recoil
203d845ftModerate Recoil
163d8+350ftModerate Recoil
124d860ftHeavy Recoil
104d8+370ftLarge Recoil
85d8+380ftVery Large Recoil

Shotgun Gauges and Ranges by Choke type: 1/2 CHOKE

GaugeDamageRange IncrementNotes
.4103d635ftLight Recoil
203d855ftModerate Recoil
163d8+375ftModerate Recoil
124d895ftHeavy Recoil
104d8+3110ftLarge Recoil
85d8+3120ftVery Large Recoil

Shotgun Gauges and Ranges by Choke type: 3/4 CHOKE

GaugeDamageRange IncrementNotes
.4103d660ftLight Recoil
203d890ftModerate Recoil
163d8+3100ftModerate Recoil
124d8110ftHeavy Recoil
104d8+3120ftLarge Recoil
85d8+3130ftVery Large Recoil

Shotgun Gauges and Ranges by Choke type: FULL CHOKE

GaugeDamageRange IncrementNotes
.4103d680ftLight Recoil
203d8100ftModerate Recoil
163d8+3110ftModerate Recoil
124d8120ftHeavy Recoil
104d8+3130ftLarge Recoil
85d8+3140ftVery Large Recoil